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With celebrations for the country's Aug. 9 national day hitting full swing, ZDNet Asia highlights some local startups which have been proudly flying the Singapore flag and showcasing its culture in their products.
The five featured include e-commerce startup PayWhere, with its social commerce platform TackThis. The service has been used to power up the donations processing system for a charity campaign currenlty running in the lead up to the national day celebrations.
Another startup with a product under the event banner is Massive Infinity and its app, NDPOnTheGo. The application helps provide information related to the National Day Parade, and includes the use of augmented reality in one of its games as a way to engage users.
Leveraging Singapore culture, particularly coffee drinking, is one of the success stories behind yet another startup Burpple. It ran a project to educate users on how to order "kopi" or local coffee "like a pro", which went viral at home and overseas. It eventually caught the interest of the local tourism board, which borrowed the concept for its own promotional activities.
Kopi was also the ingredient for success for one-man outfit, Afzane. Its time-management game, where the player runs a coffeeshop in Singapore, hit the number one spot for games in the iTunes app store here as well as in Malaysia for about two weeks.
Tourists to Singapore can also look forward to getting around more easily with the services of the fifth featured startup, TouristPads, an iPad rental company dedicated to the tourism industry. The company believes with more tech-savvy and business travellers visiting the country, getting around with a mobile device instead of conventional maps will be a growing trend.
Team members of PayWhere: CEO Dickson Gregory (3rd from right), CFO Damian Chow (1st from right), CTO Vincent Lau (1st from left), Visual design director Gerard Ng (3rd from left)
A casual conversation in December 2009 between three friends from junior college over the hassle of collecting payments online, set in motion the setup of e-commerce startup PayWhere. Several conversations later, the concept for social commerce platform TackThis was born--with the aim to help individuals and business owners easily create their own e-stores on their own blogs or social networking sites.
The three initial co-founders Dickson Gregory, Damian Chow, and Vincent Lau were later joined by their friend Gerard Ng.
"They can simply start by signing up an account and after uploading the products to be sold, tack or embed the store, which is enhanced with social shopping features, to social networks to optimize traffic and sales," said Lau, the company's CTO.
The platform caught the eye of the organizing committee behind Singapore's National Day celebrations, which was keen to use it to power the system for collecting donations for its charity campaign, Building A Loving SG, across multiple platforms such as over Web sites, Facebook and mobile.
"That was how TackThis made it possible for visitors on the official National Day Parade Web site, Facebook page and even people at bus-stops via scanning of QR code on the bus stop posters, to be converted into donors," said Lau.
The CTO shared with ZDNet Asia more on his startup's role in the campaign.
What is the objective behind Building A Loving SG?
Lau: Building A Loving SG is one of the several campaigns that are held leading up to the actual NDP celebrations on Aug. 9. As this year's theme is about Loving Singapore, the Building A Loving SG campaign hopes to remind Singaporeans, through the use of LEGO mini-figures they contribute to fill the LEGO replica of the Marina Bay Floating Platform, everyone of us can play a part in building a loving and inclusive society.
The main beneficiary of this campaign is the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which aids underprivileged children, the real building blocks of our nation's future.
The campaign ended two weeks ago with more than 3,400 unique online visitors to date. About 9 out of 50 visitors contributed to the campaign.
What are some of the highlights since starting the company, and what have you learnt?
Ever since the launch of TackThis in Sept 2011, we secured angel investments and recently closed a seed round with Red Dot Ventures.
In February this year, we secured an exclusive partnership with global blogging platform, LiveJournal, to power LJCheckout as a solution for blogshops.
We know running a startup would not be easy. Through the whole process, we have learnt to become much better in communicating value to both customers and investors alike.
What's next in the pipeline?
We are currently collaborating with brands to bring across social shopping experiences to their customers on their social media channels. We are now preparing to scale our service across the region and aim to come out of beta by the end of September this year, exactly one year after we launched TackThis.
Massive Infinity's Zhao Jin, Android programmer (left) and David Narzaree, Android programmer (right)
testing the app
In line with 2012's National Day celebrations, startup Massive Infinity launched an app, NDPOnTheGo, to engage Singaporeans under this year's theme "Loving Singapore". The app aims to not only relay information about this year's event, but keep users entertained.
Massive Infinity began as a joint venture in 2011 between two local companies involved in media production and Web systems. The founders saw an opening in Southeast Asia for mobile apps designed for business, integrating backend database systems with frontend mobile devices.
The company aims to "create bespoke Apps" for businesses to help customers to do their jobs better or easier.
"We love pushing the boundaries and trying new cool technologies," said Kris Heslop, the manager and lead iOS programmer of the eight-man team. He added that one example was the incorporation of augmented reality (AR) features in the treasure style game in NDPOnTheGo app.
What did you decide was important to have in order for NDPOnTheGo to be successful?
Heslop: We wanted to create an app that not only relayed information about this year's NDP, but also engaged users in a fun and interactive way while still staying true to the overall theme of "Loving Singapore". The app contains features such as news, social media, live streaming of the NDP parade and an events schedule.
One of the more cool features in the app is the "LovingSG Trail" which makes use of smartphone features such as augmented reality, location services and the internal compass and accelerometer. In the game, there are four trails based around four different themes Heritage, Urban, Green and Food. Each trail has been released over a schedule of weeks starting from early May. The game is a treasure hunt style game which engages users to go out and explore Singapore and remember what they love about the island.
To play the game, the user selects a location in the trail and is presented with a question and a location on the map. The user must then navigate to this location and find the place of interest. Once the user has found the place of interest, the location service on the app will detect that the user has reached the location and an AR object will appear near the place of interest. The user must take a picture with the AR object and share it on their Facebook to complete it, after which that location will disappear from the grid and be no longer selectable.
As the game is now coming to an end, the trail has proved to be popular with users hitting the 1,000s and a lot of positive feedback from the participants.
How many downloads has it managed to achieve so far?
The app had around 15,000+ downloads, with 7,000 in the first week hitting number three in the iTunes AppStore Singapore chart.
The main success for us was that LovingSG trail was played and enjoyed by over 2,000 users during the course of the four trails. A lot of people won prizes for their participation and we had good feedback from the public. We set out to engage with users and help them to remember the thing they love about Singapore and we feel we achieved that